Massive LNG Export Facility Proposed for North Spit in Coos County Denied by Federal Agency

Aerial Photo of JCEP Site on North Spit – Courtesy ODOE

North Spit in Coos County is the long tongue of sand that protects Coos Bay/North Bend from the ocean. Parts of the Spit are zoned for industrial facilities by Coos County. On one of those sites, home to an old Weyerhaeuser operation, Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP) has proposed for years to build a massive LNG export (originally an import) facility. The promontory juts into Haynes Inlet, directly across Coos estuary from the towns of Coos Bay and North Bend. Here the company proposed to site a large LNG export facility that included two enormous LNG storage tanks, and a 420-megawatt power plant called South Dunes power plant. The power plant would supply the power necessary to liquefy the gas before export. In addition, in order to build the LNG port for the ships, a massive dredging project of up to 4.25 million cubic yards will be required, the largest ever undertaken in Coos Bay.

Where would the gas come from? It will come from Canadian and/or American gas fields, likely those using both hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) techniques and tar sands extraction in Canada. The so-called “Pacific Connector” pipeline, originally a consortium of Williams Pipeline, PG&E and Veresen, would run from Coos Bay to Malin near Klamath Falls, to pipe the gas to the export facility. The 234-mile pipeline would cross about 3,035 acres of forest and woodland, 623 acres of agricultural lands and 488 acres of grassland. The pipeline would cross or affect about 400 waterbodies,, including the Coos, Coquille, Rogue and South Umpqua Rivers. About 66% of the pipeline would cross private property. The pipeline would require a 95-ft. long construction and right-of-way corridor, and then a 60-ft. wide permanent easement corridor thereafter.

Permitting requirements
The permitting requirements for a facility this size are very complex. The LNG facility, and the Pacific Connector pipeline, were seeking permits through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Jordan Cove submitted its applications for the export facility and pipeline in June 2013. The South Dunes power plant, however, was being considered through the Energy Facilities Siting Council (EFSC), which is a part of the Oregon Dept. of Energy.

As a result of this split in permitting requirements, it would be very difficult for any agency to evaluate the cumulative impacts of this gigantic proposal. This has been, and continues to be, one of the major concerns of the environmental community: there was no one agency weighing all the impacts of all aspects of this facility. A project of this size requires dizzying array of other permits, including State of Oregon required Clean Water Act certification, Oregon Dept. of State Lands removal/fill permits and leases for submerged and submersible lands, and State certification of compliance with the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.

FERC Denies Jordan Cove — But they Apply Again
In the middle of the multi-pronged and highly technical permitting processes running in rough parallel with one another, FERC suddenly announced in March 2016 that it was denying the pipeline part of the project — and thus also the export facility. The FERC denial came as a complete surprise to the opponents’ coalition, and even to the applicant. FERC based its decision on the strong landowner opposition and the lack of need for the project, as shown by JCEP’s failure to secure necessary longterm contracts. Without public need, FERC would not issue the certificate allowing Jordan Cove to use eminent domain to construct the Pacific Connector pipeline. Landowner opposition all along the pipeline route has been fierce and unrelenting, as FERC noted.

Jordan Cove, as expected, filed for a rehearing. In December 2016, FERC decided not to grant a rehearing, and reaffirmed its denial of the project. Jordan Cove immediately announced it would reapply to FERC for the project in 2017, and submitted pre-filing papers in January. Meantime, they withdrew their application to EFSC for the South Dunes Power Plant, saying the new application will redesign the facility so it would no longer need an external power plant. Jordan Cove also withdrew its application for Clean Water Act certification.

Concerns
The environmental coalition’s concerns about the facility remain unchanged, and once Jordan Cove reapplies to FERC, we will participate in the process again. The project having been denied twice, it clearly is a dead letter that does not meet federal requirements. No reapplication will change that.The project is very close to the homes of more than 40,000 people in Coos Bay/North Bend. It is also in the flight path for North Bend airport. It would be built on a sandspit in the most dangerous region for tsunami damage following a major Cascadia subduction zone earthquake. If even 10% of the LNG in one tanker were to escape and ignite, the resulting fire would reach for three miles from its source, putting communities at severe risk. Due to fears of terrorist attack, each tanker and terminal would have a strictly enforced security zone for 1,500 feet around the ships. This would seriously limit use of the public waterways. The ships and facility would use millions of gallons of water for LNG cooling, re-ballasting and other processes, thus ruthlessly impacting water quality and temperature in Coos Bay.

The 234-mile pipeline has a mind-boggling range of impacts, starting with the use of eminent domain against private landowners for Pacific Connector to gain the necessary easements. The effects to more than 400 waterbodies, farm and forest lands, ecological integrity and rural livelihood, are overwhelming. Then there is the issue of pipeline breaks, which are more frequent in rural areas due to thinner pipelines. Pipeline breaks can cause massive fires and explosions, as such disasters across the country testify. Perhaps worst of all, LNG export does not help mitigate climate change; it is instead a contributor to global warming, whose effects are becoming daily more evident. A summary of current science, available at the bottom of this article, describes in detail why the Jordan Cove Energy Project is a very bad idea.

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